The House yesterday approved an Interior Department appropriations bill that includes $180 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and imposes no explicit content restriction on projects that may be funded by the endowment.

Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) attempted without success to propose a series of content restrictions requiring grant recipients to create works that "are appropriate for a general audience."

But the House instead approved by a vote of 234 to 172 the same language that it included last week in legislation reauthorizing the NEA for three years. That bill allows the NEA to recoup its money from any recipient who uses agency funds to create work that is found obscene by a court. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate but it is unclear whether it will get to a vote before Congress adjourns. The House bill also modifies NEA grant-making procedures and raises the percentage of grant money allocated to state arts agencies. If the endowment is not reauthorized it will operate for a year through the appropriation.

The House version of the Interior appropriation also includes $313.4 million for the Smithsonian -- more than the $307.7 million that the institution had requested and a significant increase over the $266.7 million fiscal 1990 appropriation.

Also in the bill are $15 million to retire the Kennedy Center's debt and $14.5 million for repairs. The Kennedy Center had sought $30.5 million for repairs over a two-year period starting with $15 million in 1991.

The Senate plans to begin action tomorrow on the Interior appropriation. A debate over the NEA is likely to arise, since Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) is expected to attempt to include content restrictions in the bill.